LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 15, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing tied the CART rookie record for most victories in a season Sunday by registering his FedEx Championship Series-leading fifth win in the Miller Lite 200 at the...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 15, 1999) - Juan Montoya of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing tied the CART rookie record for most victories in a season Sunday by registering his FedEx Championship Series-leading fifth win in the Miller Lite 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Montoya (Target Honda Reynard), a 23-year-old from Bogota, Colombia, continued his assault on CART rookie records as his triumph allowed him to match the mark established by Nigel Mansell in 1993. He already owns the rookie mark for most laps led in a season (724) and is two shy of tying the record for pole positions, which is seven, with 14 of the 20 rounds complete in the FedEx Championship Series season. Montoya, who relinquished the FedEx Championship Series points lead to Dario Franchitti last week after holding it for the previous nine events, inched closer to recapturing the top spot with his performance. He shaved the championship points deficit of six entering the weekend to one, 152-151, but was unable to overtake Franchitti, who notched a podium performance to keep Montoya at bay. Franchitti kept the lead courtesy of a PPG Cup point for the pole Saturday, another for most laps led (54) and 14 for his third-place finish. The podium was his eighth in 14 starts, including five of the last seven on road or street courses. Sandwiched between the duo was Franchitti's Team KOOL Green teammate, Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard). Tracy's runnerup finish - 10.927 seconds behind Montoya - was his fourth in seven career starts at Mid-Ohio as well as his fourth consecutive podium of the season. The effort moved him to two points of third-place Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift), who finished eighth to push his total to 124, in the championship battle. Franchitti was dominant early, leading the first 54 laps of the 83-lap event on the 2.258-mile permanent road course, but a turn of misfortune proved costly. As the leaders were a few laps from making their second pit stops, a slowing Franchitti was forced to go in early on Lap 55 as his right rear tire was going down. Tracy inherited the lead from his teammate and held it for a lap before Montoya made an impressive pass on the ensuing lap for the lead. Tracy and Montoya pitted on Lap 58 with the lead on the line. Montoya maintained the point and Tracy was able to stay ahead of Franchitti as a caution came out on Lap 59. Montoya held off Tracy on the restart and continually built on his advantage over the Team KOOL Green tandem en route to the win. He led the final 28 laps for his first win since Cleveland in Round 9. Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) finished fourth to give Honda a sweep of the top four positions, marking only the second time in the engine manufacturer's history that it has accomplished the feat. Vasser's performance equaled his season best, established at Homestead and matched at Milwaukee, and was his fourth consecutive points-paying event.
Max Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) celebrated the third anniversary of his CART debut at Mid-Ohio with his sixth top-five finish of the season. It also was Papis' ninth top-10 effort in 14 starts.
JUAN MONTOYA, Target Honda Reynard: "It was a good day after what happened Friday. At one point, I actually told my crew, 'This car is dangerous to drive!' We made some changes to the car during qualifying and we were still way off. We came here looking to get some good points out of this and we did, so we're happy. [Following the first pit stop], I wanted to prove that I was quicker than them [Tracy and Franchitti]. I was catching them and catching them quick, so I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing until the end. I'm pretty happy."
PAUL TRACY, KOOL Honda Reynard: "It's good to be the bridesmaid here. Finishing second [for the fourth time in his career at Mid-Ohio] is kind of my tradition. I'm quite happy with the way the day went. I was quite surprised at the pace Juan ran at. When he passed me [for the lead], he got a good nice run on me going into the corner. I tried to protect the line and I made him go wide, but Juan went in a little deeper than me and he braked late. It was a good pass. They ought to put Superman on his car."
DARIO FRANCHITTI, KOOL Honda Reynard: "On the first stint, the car was great. I was quite happy. We came in for our first stop and changed the tires and when we went back out, the right rear [tire] started to go. That's why we came in early for our second stop. The car was bottoming out and got to be quite a handful and that's what allowed these guys to catch up. That and the backmarkers. Obviously, it's nice to get a podium, but from the way the day started compared to the way it ended I'm kind of disappointed."
* Rookie Juan Montoya (Target Honda Reynard) continued his climb up the CART laps-led charts by spending 28 laps on the point Sunday. That brought his season total to 724, moving him past Michael Andretti's 1986 total of 699 laps led and into fifth place on the CART single-season list. Next up is Rick Mears, who led 746 laps in 1982. Montoya also moved past Nigel Mansell (706) and into 15th-place on the CART career laps-led list. Teo Fabi is 14th at 774.
* When Montoya drove from the eighth starting position to victory, he matched CART's Mid-Ohio mark for coming from the deepest spot on the grid to the checkered flag. Montoya tied Al Unser Jr., who drove from eighth to first at Mid-Ohio in 1995.
* Montoya's victory pushed him over the $700,000 mark in season earnings, giving him a series-leading $706,250 heading into next week's Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell at Chicago Motor Speedway. Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) is second with $603,750.
* Montoya's victory was the third in four seasons for Target/Chip Ganassi Racing at Mid-Ohio. Alex Zanardi began the run with consecutive wins in 1996 and '97.
* Runner-up Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) earned his fourth consecutive podium finish, following efforts of second at Toronto, third at Michigan and second at Detroit. It was his series-high eighth consecutive finish with FedEx Championship Series points, dating to his victory at Milwaukee. Tracy has moved from 13th to fourth place in the championship during his recent run of success and now trails third-place Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Swift) by just two points, 124-122, in the championship chase.
* Honda's sweep of the top three positions brought the engine manufacturer its third podium sweep of the season, and its fourth since entering the FedEx Championship Series in 1994. Honda's other podium sweeps this season came at Portland (where Gil de Ferran, Montoya and Franchitti finished first through third, respectively) and Michigan (Tony Kanaan, Montoya and Tracy). Jimmy Vasser (Target Honda Reynard) finished fourth Sunday to give Honda a sweep of the first four finishing positions. It marked the second time that had been accomplished, following Houston last season, where Franchitti, Zanardi, Kanaan and Vasser finished first through fourth, respectively. Honda holds a 272-209 lead over Ford Cosworth in the Manufacturer's Championship.
* Greg Moore (Player's Forsythe Racing Team Ltd. Mercedes Reynard) had an extremely impressive 11th-place performance after starting 25th in the 26-car field. Moore slid into a tire wall 10 minutes into provisional qualifying Friday, losing the final 20 minutes of the session. He elected not to take to a wet track during final qualifying Saturday and thus became saddled with the 25th starting spot, the furthest back Moore has ever started in 66 career Champ Car events. His improvement of 14 places from start to finish was the largest in the field.
* Jimmy Vasser celebrated his 100th consecutive FedEx Championship Series start with a fourth-place finish. Vasser's 100th consecutive start, which dates to 1993, moved him past Rick Mears (99) and into seventh on the CART consecutive-starts list. Mauricio Gugelmin (Hollywood PacWest Mercedes) is ahead of Vasser at 102 consecutive starts, a streak which, like Vasser's, remains active.
* Firestone won its 13th event of the season and sixth in a row, dating to Montoya's win at Cleveland.
* Helio Castro-Neves (Hogan Motor Leasing, Inc. Mercedes Lola) finished seventh, matching a career-best result on a road or street course established last week at Detroit.
* Team Gordon and All American Racers announced Sunday that they have come to an agreement under which Robby Gordon will drive an Eagle chassis at Chicago and Fontana, Calif. Gordon will debut the chassis at next week's Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell at Chicago Motor Speedway and also run it in the season-ending Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota, Oct. 31 at California Speedway. "I've had the Eagle eye on that chassis for quite some time," Gordon said prior to competing in the Johns Manville/Panasonic/Menards Toyota Swift at Sunday's Miller Lite 200. "It seems to have what we need to move to the front of the grid on the ovals. I've known Dan Gurney [owner of All American Racers and developer of the Eagle chassis] for a long time, and he's had a history of building winning chassis. I've been wanting to put Toyota in Victory Circle all year, now, I have another goal, and that's to do it in an Eagle Champ Car." Said Gurney, whose All American Racers team campaigned Gualter Salles (AAR Denso/Castrol Toyota Eagle) Sunday, "We are happy to be able to have a car ready for Robby by Chicago and it is great to see that he is so enthusiastic about racing an Eagle at Chicago and Fontana. AAR has had a long standing relationship with John Menard, who purchased Eagles for his early CART team in 1980n and '81, so it will be fun to see an Eagle in Menard trim once again."
* According to Michelle Trueman, president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sunday's crowd was one of the best since CART's Champ Cars first visited in 1980. "We were very pleased to see the number of people who came out to spend their Sunday with us," said Trueman, adding that the organization does not release specific attendance numbers. "This was one of the best crowds we've had in our 18 years with CART and the FedEx Championship Series. Our fans love open wheel racing and the Champ Cars and they demonstrated that in a significant way today."
The FedEx Championship Series continues with its sixth event in seven weeks, the inaugural Target Grand Prix Presented by Shell, Sunday, August 22 at the new Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill.